The End of Innocence Part 16
Stirring slightly, Quatre slowly surfaced to wakefulness. He started to stretch when his blue eyes flew open. He was lying naked on the furs in front of the fireplace, and two strong arms were wrapped around him, holding him tightly against the solid body behind him.
With a bright blush, he recalled the pleasures of the previous evening. He shifted, rolling over onto his back so that he could see Trowa's face. The taller man murmured and readjusted his hold on Quatre and the blonde smiled. He held on so tightly, it was as if he were afraid that he'd wake and Quatre would be gone.
Trowa felt the small form moving in his arms and let himself slowly wake. He assumed it was morning... all too soon. His emerald eyes slid open to see Quatre peering at him, his expression unreadable.
"What is it?" He asked softly.
"I was just thinking."
"Maybe we shouldn't go back. The Baron's a terribly powerful man." The blonde sat up, reaching for his tunic.
"Quatre..." Trowa sat up, reaching for his own clothes, pulling them on. "Do you honestly believe that I would take you back there if I thought you'd be in too much danger?"
Quatre finished pulling on his boots and looked at Trowa. "No... I don't think you would, but I'm afraid for you."
"Don't be, there's no need."
Quatre moved forward, capturing Trowa's face in his hands, gazing up into those emerald pools. "Yea, there is! I love you. That gives me the right. I know you won't knowingly put me in danger, but you'll put yourself in danger without a thought."
Trowa leaned down and kissed the boy's soft lips. "Quit worrying and trust me for a change. I'll see you safe, and your people, and myself."
Not really satisfied, Quatre nodded and stepped away. "I'll go and see what I can find for food here, though I doubt there's much."
"Quatre, one more thing."
He turned back to the Viscount.
The brunette walked over and folded Quatre into his embrace. "I need you to understand that as of the time I first touched you, you were free. That day, in the gardens, when I kissed you... you had been freed in my heart. I couldn't tell you until now. You are my equal... a lord in your own right. No one... especially me, has the right to take that freedom away from you."
He raised his head and gazed into Quatre's damp eyes. "I love you. I will do whatever I need to in order to protect your freedom. Until the day I breathe my last. And I hope that I can do so from your side."
Quatre blinked back tears. To hear words like these were something special to begin with, to hear them from the quiet Viscount made them even more precious. "Aye, love... we'll stand at each other's side for now on." He whispered, stretching up to kiss Trowa.
Just then, Duo chose to bound into the room. "Everyone's up and ready to leave!" He said, hoping to hear that the Viscount had changed his mind.
He blushed at the sight of his cousin and the Viscount embracing so intimately. "Uh... sorry."
Quatre laughed at the blush that slowly crept up Trowa's face as he coughed and turned to grab his cloak. "It's alright cousin and we'll be out in a moment."
The pair watched Duo flee the room and with a quick kiss, followed him.
Shortly, everyone was outside and mounted, Quatre riding before Trowa, the viscount's cloak wrapped snugly around both of them.
"Are you sure about this?" Wufei asked, one last time.
Trowa nodded silently and turned his horse in the direction of the hall.
"Well, it shouldn't take more than half the day to get there, at least." Duo muttered. "A whole half day before having to face..."
"Duo." Heero said firmly. "For the sake of peace between us."
The chestnut haired boy shot Heero a look that said, 'I'll be silent for now... but if anything happens to my cousin or sister,' but he remained quiet.
Despite all that Trowa had said, Quatre couldn't still his pounding heart as the group approached the hall. How could just six of them go up against a man like the Baron? Trowa sensed his trepidation and held him tighter.
"It's alright," He whispered in the blonde's ear.
Quatre smiled shakily and remained silent.
The great doors to the courtyard were thrown open as they approached and without hesitation, Trowa rode in, reigning his horse to a halt by the stable. Everyone dismounted and without a word Wufei and Sally led the animals into the building.
Quatre looked around him. Everything appeared normal. He had expected the Baron to meet them as soon as they arrived, but so far the only person he saw was Lord Peacecraft emerging from the main building.
Trowa turned to the blonde man, bowing as he did. "Milord."
"Well, I see you found him and healthy at that," Milliardo replied.
Trowa glanced at Quatre, they'd both agreed not to mention what had happened in the faery ring. "Yea, we were lucky."
"Indeed, in more ways than one, it seems that Baron Khushrenada was suddenly called back to his estates last night. He requested that I remain to see to the punishment of young Winner." The platinum-haired man spoke evenly.
Duo stepped up to his cousin ready to do battle with his bare hands, if needed. Quatre lay a hand on his shoulder to still him, something was odd here. He eyed the tall blonde, looking for any sign of deception, that this was a trap. Even Heero was tense.
Everyone started when Trowa's reaction was to chuckle. "It worked then."
"What the hell..." Duo growled.
"Yeah, much easier than I thought, although I think that his lady may have helped convince him that he needed to return."
Trowa's eyebrows shot up. "His lady aided us?"
"Alright!" Duo snapped. "What is going on here?"
"Duo," Quatre spoke up, his voice barely a whisper. "Not now."
"No, it's alright." Milliardo said. "I had a message sent to the Baron, stating that his lands were being threatened and the he needed to return as quickly as possible."
"Were they?" Quatre asked.
"Nay, it was a false message to lure him away, while we got the six of you back inside. I overheard Lord Barton arguing with the Baron on the eve before you disappeared. I'm not about to force a marriage upon anyone that doesn't wish it, no matter what the reason. I spoke with Barton the morning he discovered you missing and told him I had overheard and that I was calling off the marriage." He explained.
No one noticed Quatre's subtle stiffening as the man continued. "Furthermore, I'm not blind. I saw the reactions to our arrival, I understood where his heart lay, so, the Baron not being one of my favorite people either, I offered my assistance."
Trowa turned to Quatre to speak and stopped when he saw the pure fury in the boy's eyes.
"Do you realize that you have called a war down upon my people?" Quatre ground out, his sapphire eyes blazing. "He will stop at nothing to see us all destroyed now."
"Quatre..." Trowa started.
"No! Don't you understand? I would rather live my live in some strange country than put my people in danger! I can't believe that you would do this! I thought they were important to you also." He cried.
"They are." Trowa snapped. "Your people will remain safe inside these walls. When the Baron returns to lay siege on the hall, it will be Lord Peacecraft and myself, along with our soldiers that will go to meet him." He took the boy's shoulders in his hands. "There are many men, whose loyalty to us is more then their pledge to the Baron. They will fight by our sides. Your people will not see battle."
Quatre stepped back from his touch, his eyes cold. "And if you lose, they will pay the price. You are gambling with their lives. War is war... everyone pays the price for it."
"Quatre," Duo stepped forward. "This time I have to agree with the Viscount. They are doing all they can to ensure the safety of the people. And this is the only way you'll ever be free."
"We won't lose." Milliardo added.
"You have no way of being sure of that." Quatre replied. "No way at all. And I'm sure I can forgive you taking such a chance with the lives of these people. Not when it wasn't needed."
Trowa watched him turn and walk into the hall, his heart sinking. Am I wrong in trying to make things right?
Duo turned back to Trowa. "Let me fight with you."
"No." Heero stepped forward. "Absolutely not!"
"He's right," Trowa said quietly. "Your place is with your family."
"No." Trowa said more firmly this time.
Duo scowled, but he actually understood the Viscount's thinking, as much as he didn't like it. As the tall man turned to go retrieve his horse, Duo spoke softly.
"I'll try to make him understand."
Trowa stopped. "Thank-you." He replied and continued on.
Heero turned to Duo. "Duo..."
"I know." Duo answered, his voice cracking. "Just go, don't make it any worse. I'll be waiting for you when you return."
The cobalt-eyed man gently touched the Scot's smooth cheek. "Love you." He murmured.
"And I you. Keep him safe, will you? It'll kill Quatre if anything happens to him."
Heero nodded, understanding the double meaning behind the statement, and then walked away.
Duo wrapped him arms around himself and watched Trowa, Heero, Wufei and Lord Peacecraft all ride out of the courtyard without another glance backwards. "And I'll keep everyone safe here," He whispered to the wind.
Upstairs in his chambers, Quatre watched the party leave with tear-filled eyes. How could I be so foolish? To walk away like that... to let him leave without a word? I'm so angry at his actions... but... but... "Oh Gods... what if he doesn't return?" He whispered out loud.
How could one love someone so much and be so angry at the same time?
He fought his rising panic as he turned as ran from the room and down the stairs. Bursting out the door, he raced towards the entrance, his heart pounding in his ears. What have I done? What have I done? he cried over and over silently.
Duo caught the blonde as he ran headlong for the doors. "Quatre!" He cried.
"No! No! Let me go!" Quatre struggled wildly.
"Nay! Those doors will not open again until they return." Duo held on, trying to calm the boy. "Not even for you."
The blonde fought him, ignoring his words. "Please! Let me go! I have to tell him!"
"Quatre! Stop! You have to stop!" Duo got his arms around his cousin and held the struggling boy tightly. "He knows, Quatre. He knows..."
Struggling ceased and anguished blue-eyes stared at him.
"That's why he goes. Because he knows. Because of your love, he'll risk anything to return your lands to you."
"I don't want the lands." The blonde replied miserably.
Duo sighed and hugged his cousin. "But you want to protect your people... what do you think would have happened if we had run?"
"I know," came the muffled reply. "It's just..."
Duo led the boy back to the hall. "It'll do no good to keep beating yourself up over it. Come, let's see what we can do to make this place secure and to ready it for their return." Quatre nodded slowly and followed Duo into the building.
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